J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team raced to the quarterfinals today at the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. They had a strong race car throughout qualifying holding down the provisional No. 1 spot at the end of the day on Friday. The final session of qualifying was washed out by rain showers so the team went into race day as the No. 2 qualifier with only three qualifying sessions under their belts.
“Being able to run in the hot and cooler conditions gives me a lot of confidence as a driver. I know going into every race that I will have a great team behind me and they can adapt to different conditions,” said Todd on Friday night. “That is what makes (crew chiefs) Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer so special. It was sketchy out there (Friday night). For one I struggle driving when it is dark and then you bring in humidity and moisture so the track is tricky. I had my hands full down track. We were lucky to hang on. I think we just hit it right and a lot of other people just messed up.”
In the opening session on Sunday Todd advanced past Jim Campbell when Campbell jumped the tree earning an automatic disqualification. It was a lucky break for Todd considering his Toyota Camry smoked the tires a few hundred feet into his run. It was the kind of fortunate break than many times leads to victory on race day.
In the second round Todd’s luck and the skill of his crew chiefs were not enough to overcome tricky track conditions. The DHL Toyota Camry and Todd left first but again suffered tire smoke almost immediately. The reigning Funny Car champion had to give up on the run and watch helplessly as Tommy Johnson Jr. advanced to the semifinals.
“We just didn’t get a handle on the track today,” said Todd. “This was one race and I am focused on Richmond now. This DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car is going to be just fine. We will head to Richmond with the right attitude and get back after it in a couple of weeks.”
Todd on receiving his championship jacket and ring on Thursday night: “That was a cool deal on Thursday to be able to get your ring and jacket in front of all the past champions. Guys you look up to as a kid. I have to thank Coke and Mello Yello for allowing us to do that. It would definitely be special to win their home event.”
Qualified: No. 2 (3.944 sec., 323.50 mph)
Bonus points: +5 (Quickest of Q2 and 2nd quickest of Q3)
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
J.R. Todd 2 .067 4.696 172.94 (W)
Jim Campbell 15 -.065 4.244 291.89
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
J.R. Todd 2 .072 10.638 76.09
Tommy Johnson Jr. 7 .079 4.334 218.62 (W)
Kalitta Motorsports PR